Leon didn't question the Prince's decisions very often. Oh, the captain could be obstinate and stubborn and defiant, but only in the most extreme of circumstances, and only so far. When it came down to the wire and he was given an order, Leon would follow the word of Arthur to his own death because the knight believed, absolutely and completely, that Arthur would not steer him wrong.
Arthur was honest to his knights, listened to their advice, and was fair in everything he did. It was why Leon was so devoted – even, secretly, past his devotion to the King – and why he would, if asked or not, give his life in Arthur's defence and his interest. Leon knew that Arthur was the Crown Prince, and so could not be the knights' friend, but that he liked and respected and trusted them anyway.
But Arthur loved Merlin like a brother, and that Leon could not understand.
It was hard to see it sometimes. On days when Arthur let them use his manservant as target practice, for instance. Or when they lounged about the fire on patrol or a hunt and Merlin cooked and cleaned, stepping around their outstretched feet as he worked. Or any of the hundreds of times that Arthur would call his manservant coward, or idiot, or oaf, and mean it, really.
Thing was, Merlin gave as good as he got, and his nerve could be downright astounding. No one else got away with saying the things he did on a good day, except the Lady Morgana, and Merlin was hardly comparable. In any way. At all.
So they all treated him a little roughly, and Leon noted every time he begged Arthur to go back to Camelot, or messed up a hunt, or treated their Prince disrespectfully, because it was a black mark against him in Leon's book, and he tried not to think of just why he disliked the boy so much.
Later, after Morgana turned and after they had sat at the Round Table and made their oaths, Leon was nasty to Merlin in Lancelot's presence and the other knight just smiled calmly at him until Merlin was gone.
"What?" Leon asked, sharply, because he knew he wasn't acting well, and being with Lancelot was like being with a saint. No matter how much the man didn't judge you, it was impossible to measure up. Leon surely didn't expect Lancelot, still smiling to ask, "Jealous?"
"Of Merlin?" Leon asked, a bit open-mouthed at the idea.
"Don't worry;" Lancelot said, "they all are."
And Lancelot had walked away in a cloud of perfect to leave Leon reeling, because that was just it, wasn't it?
Because Leon knew – had known for a long time, even if he hadn't wanted to admit it – that Arthur would trust any one of his knights with his own life, but he would trust Merlin with Camelot itself, and that meant something else entirely.
And because there was no way to get around it, once he stopped to look at it closely, he thought about the servant and came to a startling conclusion. No, Merlin was not like the rest of them, but why should he be? He was not a knight. And without oaths, without training, without weapons, Merlin stood beside Arthur just as they did. Any of them could leave, if they wanted to; Arthur wouldn't hold them to their oaths if they couldn't stand behind them, resolute. But Merlin didn't have to be there at all, and chose to ride into danger regardless, at Arthur's side.
It had taken Leon a long time to recognize these truths about the Prince's manservant: that he and Arthur bickered because they were comfortable with each other; that he tried to get out of danger to protect Arthur, not himself; and, that he would stay by his Prince's side through darkness and dragons and death and never blink, never stand down.
It wouldn't keep Leon from using the oaf as target practice, but it meant something.
Even if it was a something that Leon didn't want to think on too deeply.